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commander was an old party member, and when regular Wehrmacht officers were assigned to help in the attack preparations they were transferred to the SS rolls. Hitler's early plans speak of the Sixth SS Panzer Army, although on 16 December the army still did not bear the SS appellation in any official way, and it is clear that the Sixth was accorded the responsibility and honor of the main effort simply because Hitler felt he could depend on the SS.


Josef "Sepp" Dietrich had the appropriate political qualifications to ensure Hitler's trust but, on his military record, hardly those meriting command of the main striking force in the great counteroffensive. By profession a butcher, Dietrich had learned something of the soldier's trade in World War I, rising to the rank of sergeant, a rank which attached to him perpetually in the minds of the aristocratic members of the German General Staff. He had accompanied Hitler on the march to the Feldherrnhalle in l923 and by 1940 had risen to command the Adolf Hitler Division, raised from Hitler's bodyguard regiment, in the western campaign. After gaining considerable reputation in Russia, Dietrich was brought to the west in 1944 and there commanded a corps in the great tank battles at Caen. He managed to hang onto his reputation during the subsequent retreats and finally was selected personally by Hitler to command the Sixth Panzer Army. Uncouth, despised by most of the higher officer class, and with no great intelligence, Dietrich had a deserved reputation for bravery and was known as a tenacious and driving division and corps commander. Whether he could command an army remained to be proven. The attack front assigned the Sixth Panzer Army, Monschau to Krewinkel, was narrower than that of its southern partner because terrain in this sector was poor at the breakthrough points and would not offer cross-country tank going until the Hohes Venn was passed. The initial assault wave consisted of one armored and one infantry corps. On the south flank the I SS Panzer Corps (Generalleutnant der Waffen-SS Hermann Priess) had two armored divisions, the 1st SS Panzer and the 12th SS Panzer, plus three infantry divisions, the 3d Parachute, the 12th Volks Grenadier and the 277th Volks Grenadier. On the north flank the LXVII Corps (General der Infanterie Otto Hitzfeld) had only two infantry divisions, the 326th and 246th Volks Grenadier. The doctrinal question as to whether tanks or infantry should take the lead, still moot in Ger-